The whole concept behind the music portion of South By Southwest is to showcase emerging acts — and the annual festival in Austin certainly delivers.
In recent years, we’ve rubbed elbows with Sam Smith in a drinks line; watched Florence Welch, of Florence & The Machine, dive into a Tex-Mex joint’s indoor fountain mid-performance; and witnessed Feist play a flawless set on a back porch in ridiculous winds.
But with over 1,500 shows and 100 venues — and close-up access to some of the biggest stars of the future — navigating the weeklong event staring March 17 requires advance recon. Read on for five quick things to do now for maximum fun.
(1) Get on the list: One massive issue with SXSW is the monthlong process of replying to scores of invites for events that you’re not sure you’ll even attend. EnterRSVPster. For $40, you provide them your name, email address and dates of attendance, and they’ll RSVP you for everything of interest automatically. You’ll be on hundreds of event lists with zero work. This is perhaps the greatest SXSW hack of all time.
(2) Heed the social intel: There are crucial Twitter accounts to follow for the best breaking news during SX. Our favorites include unofficial accounts @SXSWhoa,@CameronAtSX, @bvSXSW, @SXSWISLIFE, @SouthByFreeNOMS and@rsvpforyourlife. Browsing these will keep you in the know, help you avoid long lines and tip you to free drinks and food.
(3) Find last-minute lodging: Hotel rooms downtown are currently $500 or more a night, but there are two alternatives to explore. One is to check Airbnb or STR Austinfor available condos and rooms. You can find options within one ZIP code of the fest, about 2 miles away, for less than $250. If you have to be downtown, call larger hotels directly and ask for “in-house reservations,” the department that books large groups and weddings. The on-site reservationist often has access to rooms not available online, and you can take advantage.
(4) Buy the $800 badge or $200 wristband: Deciding between the SXSW wristband and badge can be tricky, but ask yourself: can you go with the flow, or must you see the big names? If you’re adaptable, the wristband will allow access to plenty of quality showcases at dozens of venues, but is unlikely to get you into that coveted Decemberists gig. The extra cash will grant you priority admission and one daily SXXpress pass for line-skipping at one venue.
(5) Get a top table for dinner every night: When every music fan in Austin descends on the top downtown restaurants each evening, hour-plus waits are the norm. How fortunate, then, that OpenTable lets you book tables in February. It’s a simple tip, but saves hours: go now and book a dinner for each festival night. You’ll dine happily and efficiently at spots like the backspace, Dai Due and LaV while a lobby full of hungry people glare at you and your coveted table.